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Shane - Superlite (#43)

HMCC Putoline Winter Series Round 3 @ Taupo

Rating: 7 votes, 5.00 average.
Racing motorbikes you get to learn a lot about yourself. Things you didn't think you could do you find are possible. Fears you thought were you couldn't beat are overcome. Often we overcome physical, emotional and financial problems to do things we never thought we could do. Equally as important is recognising when you shouldn't be riding.

The weather forecast for the day wasn't looking good. It was going to be wet all day with little chance of drying out. However, the forecast for Hamilton was similar and there hadn't been any rain over rain overnight so I was hoping the met service was wrong about Taupo as well. The drive down was looking promising with mostly dry roads all the way.

Unfortunately, 10 minutes from the track we hit the rain and it wasn't looking like it was going to ease up. Pulling into the pits carpark my wife told me I didn't have to ride today. Never mind that we'd gotten out of bed at 5:00am and driven 2 hours. Never mind the work I'd put in to get the bike ready and set up and never mind the expense to get there. If I didn't want to ride we could leave.

I decided that seeing as we were already there I might as well sign in and see what happened.

Matt had found a pit shed and told me to get in with them. Kendal said they were going to get the wets on the bikes but I told her to it was more important to get signed in and the bikes through scrutineering; wheels could be done later.

At signin I found out that I'd forgotten to transfer the entry fee through so I was going to have to go find a money machine as there wasn't any EFTPOS at the track. Back in the pit shed Matt and Kendal were going to change to wets. They only had one set of spare rims so changing tyres on one bike would have to be done. Matt was getting stuck into it but things weren't going as well as hoped so I jumped in and started helping him out with both bikes.

We got the spare wheels onto Kendal's bike as she was in the first Qualifying session. The wheels were off Matt's bike but Riders Briefing was being called. I told the other two to go to Riders Briefing and I'd finish changing the tyres over and get the wheels back on the bike.

Working as quickly as I could, progress was good until I couldn't find the valve tool. I shot off to the briefing and asked Matt if he had it but he didn't. I couldn't inflate the tyre so I started fitting the wheel to the bike and we could inflate it later. The others got back from the briefing and we finished getting the wheels back on while I lock-wired the caliper bolts.

The rear wheel on Kendal's bike wasn't turning properly; it looked like the stupid rear brake caliper had jumped out of its slot and was jamming. Her qualifying session was out in 2 minutes so we whipped the wheel off again but even with the caliper properly located the wheel still wouldn't turn properly. The piston seemed to be jamming. Matt pulled the pads out but the piston wouldn't move so I gave it a quick blast with brake clean and undid the bleed nipple so we could push the piston back.

The pads went back in, everything was done up, the caliper back on, the wheel back on, it spun freely so we got everything done up and the bike off the stands. I tell Kendal she's missed most of Qualifying so just go out and get a feel for being on wets and also take a look at the dodgy little chicane onto the back straight.

She heads out for her first ever Qualifying, which also happens to be her first time on wets. She only does a couple of laps when she sees the guys in front of her heading into the pits. As she missed most of the session she assumes that it's the end of Qualifying but for some reason the chequered flag doesn't go out and the guys still out there end up with an 18 minute session. It's at this stage we point out the importance of riding to the flags.

Once Kendal's session is done I'd already resigned myself to withdrawing from the meeting and helping out in the pits. I'd missed riders briefing, I hadn't gotten the money to pay the entry fee and my bike was still on the trailer and hadn't been through scrutineering. I guess my wife could see I wasn't in the right space to race as she'd suggested a number of times that I shouldn't.

Things have calmed done in the pits and Kendal's 2 laps qualified her in a very good 5th place. Matt's Qualifying is out and he does well to qualify 10th in his first time on wets.

First race, the rain has stopped and the track is still wet but thereís very little standing water. Kendal gets an ok start, latching onto the back of the pack into turn 1. She rides a solid race and finishes just 1 spot behind where she started, not getting lapped like the 2 guys behind her, so she hit all of her targets for her first ever race.

Race 4 and Matt gets a good start but gets held up for the first couple of laps. He manages to to push on and eventually get through the pack of 3 bikes to finish a very creditable 3rd place.

Race 7 and Kendal gets a better start, but so does everyone else. She spends the entire race trying to find a way past David Hamilton but gets frustrated by his straight line speed and sheís not able to get past on the corners. Everyone is faster in this race; she finishes back in 8th place after getting lapped by a pirate who lapped everyone up to the 4th place finisher.

Leading up to Race 10 Matt is worried that itís too dry and that heíll have to change to dry tyres, in which case heíd just pack up for the day. But I tell him the track is cold enough and thereís still plenty of wet patches out there - that heíll be fine on wets. Others are looking to change to slicks but Iím encouraging them to either stay with wets or put a slick on just the rear. Nobody is out on full slicks but thereís a couple in the Senior race with a rear slick and they use the extra grip to do well.

Race 10 and the rain is back, justifying Matt staying on full wets. Unfortunately, Nathan Jane has put a slick on the back but there was way too much water out there and Nathan slips back through the field, eventually finishing a very distant 5th. Meantime Matt is not having a good time, finding it difficult to get in a rhythm and he struggles to an unhappy 8th place.

Race 13 we send Kendal out and hear the sounds of panic behind us. Rob Edwards was leaving to get out on the grid when his pit crew spotted a spacer lying on the floor. Theyíre quickly trying to get the rear wheel out and the spacer in but itís a bloody stupid SV650 rear so the caliper keeps getting in the way. Matt holds the caliper while Colin Box is getting the axle in. Iím jiggling the wheel, and Rob is getting the chain on and then making sure the spacer doesnít fall out again. We get the wheel back on and send Rob out to start the race from pit exit.

Kendal gets a better start but sheís not able to get in front of David Hamilton before turn 1. The nod of her helmet tells me itís good we canít hear what she just said. For the rest of the race Kendal and David have a great battle, with Kendal getting David on the infield but heís able to get back past her when he can get the power down. The races have been shortened due to a full track liquid spill that had held things up earlier. It turned out it wasnít oil but it still had to be cleaned up. Even though it was shortened both Kendal and David were buzzing from having such a great race and theyíre talking about it out the back of the pit shed.

Race 16 and Matt gets a decent start and has a much more settled race. He finishes in 8th place again but it wasnít frustrating like his second race, so heís happy with the result.

Packing up I carry things out to their van but as itís like a game of Tetris getting everything into the van; I pile it all up outside and then grab some beers.

I didnít race but it turned out to be an excellent day anyway. Had I raced it wouldíve just been another average, cold, wet race day for me. But I was able to help turn a disaster into an excellent day for Matt and Kendal and Iím really pleased about that because stressing out and missing races isnít the way to start a racing career. And my wife had a good day too - she didnít end up having to be my pit crew and finally met Kendal.

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